PACE Yourself: Basel Logic of e-Waste Export

HP Blackbird 002 Crashes in the Dead of the Night.
An e-waste export crime in the making...

Basel Convention has a section on legal export which says that repairing electronics is not "Waste".  The ENGO Basel Action Network protested that from the beginning, but lost.  The ENGO now seeks to change this via a BAN "Amendment", calling the Convention as ratified as "an unfinished success story"...

In the meantime, while waiting for its amendment to be passed, BAN is fervently presenting the case that export for repair is indeed already waste.   While waiting to get its export-crime law passed, BAN is also trying to get "competent authorities" in importing countries to act as if repair is already illegal.

Blackbird crashing inthe dead of the night
The NGO has already been very successful when either A) the importing country manufactures new products and sees protectionism value in BAN's interpretation, or B) is a dictatorship trying to stop affordable internet.  89.7% of e-waste enforcement I've seen may be within one of these two categories [tic].  Now they are trying to get the interpretation enacted by USA Congress.   This is what HR 2284, the Green Thompson #Ewaste Bill, would do in the USA.

While waiting for export for repair to be made illegal, how is export for repair already in fact illegal?  BAN explains the logic, in their own words. From the BAN Library:

Model African State Policy on Importation of Used Electronic and Electrical Equipment (UEEE)
Prepared by the Basel Action Network (BAN)
November 23, 2009
The “Export for Repair” Question

The question of exports for re-use following repair in the recipient country was seen as being more complex. The Parties present in the MPPI project group 2.1 recognized that exports of material that can be re-used following repair in the importing country are in fact both an export for direct re-use and at the same time likely to involve export for disposal/recycling. This is due to the fact that repair generally involves replacing a part. If the replaced part is in fact hazardous then this export falls under the definition of transboundary movement of hazardous waste under the Convention according to the Parties present in the MPPI 
working group 2.1.
"Likely to involve"...  Here is an actual case study, in real time.  Robin has a failed PC (HP Blackbird 02), an identified "capacitor plague" issue, and a willing buyer in South America.  I've come here to investigate.  According to BAN, if I export something likely to involve replacing a very small part, I'm a criminal.

USA High End Market Gaming Machine - likely to involve capacitor failure.

more than likely to be replaced part
I paid a lot of money in 2008 to get a PC which was top of the line and also advertised by HP/Voodoo as being the most upgradeable.  Parts come out without a screwdriver, the aluminum case is worth over $100 by itself.  I was planning to repair and upgrade, and this was the PC to buy.

During the past few months, a capacitor in my HP Blackbird 002 started to overheat and the PC began crashing suddenly... very suddenly, no blue screen, not even a "bip" or a "bleep", just suddenly restarting, no work saved.

As an electrolytic capacitor ages, its capacitance usually decreases and its equivalent series resistance (ESR) usually increases. The capacitance may abnormally degrade to as low as 4% of the original value, as opposed to an expected 50% capacity degradation over the normal life span of the component.[11] When this happens, the capacitors no longer adequately serve their purpose of filtering the direct current voltages on the motherboard, and system instability results...  [wikipedia 2012.03.23]
likely to be replaced parts on 80 lb HP Blackbird 002
Since I do a lot of work in "the cloud", with immediate backup, it was more of a nuisance than a disaster.  I had a Ford Contour that did the same thing on the highway, after about 1 hour driving it just suddenly clicked "off" and I coasted off the road.  I still drove it for months as I was going short distances, it was "good enough" but completely unacceptable for a trip to Boston from Vermont.

In the USA, there are still people who replace capacitors.  For me, buying a new gaming PC for $1000 is a better option than the HP Blackbird 002 upgrade... I'd just like the HP I'm replacing to have a fair value and find a good home.  The repair/upgrade process normally involves updating several other parts, such as the power supply.   If you replace a car's head gasket you may as well replace the spark plugs.  All well and good, just not what I see myself doing on a weekend.  Much more efficient for me to sell the HP to someone who does like doing that, and put my money into something with solid state HD compatability.

Following on my experience with my broken HTC Evo, if you doubt you can do a repair/upgrade by yourself, it makes sense to sell the item to someone really good and really confident in their upgrades.  I'm outside of the "Good Enough Market", but I can sell to people inside that market...  This is what BAN says is "likely to involve" a transboundary movement of the part to be replaced.

That's right... The capacitor to be replaced makes the shipment equivalent to horrible, toxic, child-postering "EWASTE".  As Carol Baroudi said in the Redemtech Blog, this is the number one superiority claim of E-Stewards Export Standards "First and foremost – No non-functioning equipment is ever exported. Got that? Never. R2 makes no such claim."
pop goes the capacitor

The HP Blackbird is a "behemouth"... it weighs between 70 and 100 lbs (depending on water cooling, number of drives, etc.).

The offending capacitor weighs... I dunno, but it's in grams.  BAN however has said that Baroudi got it wrong, that you can in fact export legally for repair, as long as you pay a technician to remove the capacitor prior to export.

Five options:

1) I say the PC is "good enough" (works well enough on the cloud, just stops from time to time)
2) I pay $1000 to upgrade it and keep using it
3) I pay $1000 to upgrade it before exporting it
4) I fully disclose its condition and sell it fairly to someone who can do the capacitor repair less expensively
5) I follow HP's directions (below)... and buy a brand new PC.

Choices 2, 3, and 4 involve this process (video)... one which Basel Action Network says has to be done in an OECD country.  Compare this to HP's process for recycling the HP Blackbird 002.

Preparing an HP Blackbird for Export for Repair Market, E-Stewards style

Fortunately, it's easy to recycle an HP Blackbird 002.  HP has even authored friendly instructions to avoid the transboundary movement of the offending capacitor prior to export.  Here's an excerpt:

6. To remove the power supply (see Figure 5):
a. Disconnect all power cables from the storage devices, CPU power cable, and from the system board.
b. Remove the four screws that secure the power supply to the chassis (A).
c. Slide the power supply toward the back of the computer. then lift it out of the computer.

7. To disassemble and remove required power supply components:
a. Using wire cutter, cut the plastic clamp that secures the wires to the power supply cover.
b. Using a phillips screwdriver, remove the four screws that secure the cover to the power supply chassis (Figure 6).
c. Lift the cover off the power supply. (Note: You may need a flat screwdriver to loosen both sides of the cover prior
to removing.
d. Using wire cutter, cut all cables connected to the PCA in the power supply.
8. Cut twelve capacitors from the PCA, as shown in Figure 7.

This is surreal.  As any amateur technician knows, all of these cables clip on and off with the press of a thumb.  But go get wire cutters and CUT the cables.   Then CUT OFF CAPACITORS - good or bad... making sure that... um... well, that no one overseas really wants to do the repair anymore.  The instructions are very detailed, but there are no instructions on how to see which are the bad caps, only instructions to cut off and remove ALL capacitors.

(I suspect that some of these instructions come from European or Japanese requirements, but those in turn are influenced by the OEMs.)

The point is that this is a completely ludicrous set of instructions.  It is ludicrous that BAN says the tiny capacitor makes the 30 Kg device "e-waste", it's ludicrous that a 3 gram capacitor must be removed prior to export, and it's ridiculous that you'd give instructions for finding and cutting off EVERY capacitor without showing how to spot the failed one.   This is planned obsolescence in hindsight.

The Logical Consequence of BAN's Reasoning: Stop All Exports

Electrostatic Capacitor (8k)
So if BAN actually wishes to be consistent, do Carol Baroudi, E-Stewards, or HR2284 go far enough?  Carol and Redemtech are not the only E-Stewards to push the envelope - another "largest" e-Steward says that the true measure of stewardship is "no intact unit".  Below is the case why even export of fully functional goods must be stopped.

BAN Elective Upgrade?  Millions of devices are exported per E-Steward instructions, fully functional.  But they wind up in the same shops, run by Geeks of Color.  And the Geeks do elective upgrades.  To quote BAN's Guidance Document again:

This is due to the fact that repair elective upgrade generally involves replacing a part. If the replaced part is in fact hazardous then this export falls under the definition of transboundary movement of hazardous waste under the Convention

So if you export a MAR-licensed, fully functional, 40G hard drive to Thailand, where hard drives are MADE and replaced under warranty, you expect the Geek to sit on his hands?  Or do you think he's going to make more money by replacing the 40G hard drive with a drive 10 times more capacity?  There are many such elective upgrades  - Upgrading RAM, replacing a working 120v power supply with 220v, replacing a fan (with, HP notes, more than XX grams of brominated flame retardent plastic).

So banning export for repair is not enough, you have to KNOW what the geek is going to do without a two-party dialogue (which BAN dismisses accepting the word of the importer in this sarcastic piece, reminscent of its own Pledge of True Stewardship).  Logically, export of fully functional devices must be banned because elective upgrade involves replacing a part, and BAN has shown that you cannot rely on the word of a Geek overseas that they will not replace the part.

If BAN is right, and replacing the little capacitor is either polluting, or illegal based on a "technicality".
  • Warranty repair in the original manufacturing countries must be stopped.
  • Tested working, fully functional exports are likely to involve transboundary movement of an electively upgradeable part
  • HP must open factories here in the USA to do the warranty repairs.
This will create the jobs BAN wants, and stop the Geeks overseas from sustainable reuse.

The primitive 83% of the world (non-OECD like Singapore, not OECD like Greece) can mine their rain forests, mine their coral islands, and manufacture and assemble new products for us, but the most sustainable practice, and the thing they do best of all, must be stopped.

Blackbird (Lennon/McCartney) played by young Sungha Jung (Born South Korea on September 2, 1996)   I think free and fair trade has a lot to do with the difference between South Korea and North Korea.   Sometimes trade, like lovemaking, can be unfair exploitation.   But sometimes it's beautiful.

Here, by the way, is an American demonstrating what this dangerous, polluting, illegal, exploitative, anti-steward slave labor work looks like.  I took pictures of Geeks of Color doing this yesterday.   I can now pose beside the great stalwarts of e-waste as someone who has "been there" (to the 83% of the world).  Next week, lets try to rank this job among others that we don't want to see brown people doing.

Now to carefully transition the careful reader, here is a video of an African American checking a similar but larger capacitor.

File:Bad cap PS.png 

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